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Piero della Francesca

Italian Painter

Piero della Francesca Photo
Movement: Early Renaissance

Born: c.1420 - Borgo San Sepolcro, Italy

Died: October 12th, 1492 - Borgo San Sepolcro, Italy

"Certainly many painters who do not use perspective have also been the object of praise; however, they were praised with faulty judgement by men with no knowledge of the value of this art."

Summary of Piero della Francesca

Piero della Francesca harnessed mathematical theory and geometry, combining them with Renaissance humanism, to create some of the most arresting religious paintings of the early Renaissance. His use of linear perspective and foreshortening brought biblical scenes and legends to life, and his emulation of classical figures and compositions lend his paintings a stability and gravitas even if their subjects are often mysterious.

Now celebrated as one of the most important Italian painters of the quattrocento (15th century), Piero della Francesca languished in obscurity for several centuries. While he did not inspire many artists during the Renaissance, the quiet grandeur and precision of his paintings spoke to a host of 20th-century avant-garde artists from Georges Seurat and Giorgio de Chirico to Balthus and Philip Guston.

Key Ideas

Piero della Francesca's abiding interest in mathematics led him, along with Masaccio and Brunelleschi, to create illusionistic spaces in which ideally proportioned and sized human beings enacted religious and secular events. This rationalized space reflected a humanistic world view in which human beings were the measure of all things.
The renaissance of classical antiquity in the 15th century meant an abandonment of many medieval conventions and an emphasis on solid human forms grounded in an illusionistic space Despite this new substantiality, Piero's paintings still possess an atmosphere of otherworldliness due to his color palette and stillness of his figures.
While Piero della Francesca painted many altarpieces and frescoes that decorated church interiors, he benefited greatly from a burgeoning secular patronage. Led by the new wealthy merchant class, these patrons commissioned artists like Piero in hopes of cementing their status through visual displays of wealth and importance.
Piero della Francesca Photo

Around the year 1420, in the small Tuscan town of Borgo San Sepolcro, Piero della Francesca was born to Romana and Benedetto dell Francesca. His parents were merchants who plied their trade in leather and wool, through which they made a substantial living, and both of their families had a noble lineage. Piero was his parents' third child, and he likely would have attended school in his town where, according to 16th-century historian Giorgio Vasari, he applied himself to mathematics in particular.

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